Health IT tool in waiting room improves clinician, patient communication
A simple waiting room-based tool on an iPad that researchers dubbed the Visit Planner significantly improved visit communication between primary care physicians and patients, according to findings recently published in Annals of Family Medicine.
“Patients often have important concerns that are not always addressed during the visit. There are only so many different topics that can be discussed during the limited time available, so it is important to provide patients with the tools to identify and communicate their own top visit priorities,” Richard W. Grant, MD, MPH, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, told Healio Primary Care Today.
“The PCPs were clear that they did not want something that would make additional work for them, since the visits were already too packed with things they had to do,” Grant added.
Visit Planner, an iPad-based tool used by 359 patients in the waiting room, started with a video that described its purpose and taught patients the importance of discussing concerns with their physician as early as possible during visit. The tool then asked participants to pick their top one or two reasons for their visit from a list that contained “medicines,” “new problem,” “need something from the doctor,” “old problem,” “stress at home or at work,” “personal concern” or other. Patients also had the option of entering additional information that built on the initial priorities and described how they would stay involved in their own care. These patients were then given a printout with the details they provided to bring with them to the doctor. Another 391 participants who were given a one-page healthy lifestyle education handout served as a control group.
Researchers found those who used Visit Planner more often reported “definitely” preparing questions for their doctor before the visit compared with the control group (59.5% vs. 45.1%; P < .01) and “definitely” voicing their top concerns at the beginning of the visit (91.3% vs. 83.3%; P < .01). Patients in both groups reported high levels of satisfaction with their care (intervention group, 86.8% vs. control group, 89.9%; P = .2). In addition, the prevalence of clinical care gaps dropped by a similar amount in each study arm with 6 months of follow-up.
“Patients liked the Visit Planner and had very little trouble understanding what it was for or how to use it. And by helping patients to prepare and prioritize, the Visit Planner made it easier for the PCP to quickly ascertain what was important for the patient on that day,” Grant said.
Although the tool was only tested in primary care settings, Grant told Healio Primary Care Today it can be modified for other fields of medicine.
“This Visit Planner could be adapted to other specialties by tailoring the choices offered to patients of concerns they’d like to prioritize. For example, if a patient had a visit with her gynecologist, the priority choices that patients would be offered in the modified Visit Planner could include birth control discussion, pelvic pain, medication concerns, mood or anxiety, etc,” Grant said. – by Janel Miller
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.